Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Rugby World Cup: Eden Park runs red with tears

France's Dimitri Szarzewski is prevented from taking his children on to Eden Park to celebrate his team's win. Photo / Brett Phibbs
France's Dimitri Szarzewski is prevented from taking his children on to Eden Park to celebrate his team's win. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Welsh voices that soared around Eden Park early in yesterday's Rugby World Cup semifinal were silenced by the red card to captain Sam Warburton.

And Red Dragons fans never found their tune again. France carried the game 9-8, securing a place in next week's final.

After the final whistle, scenes of disgust and confusion abounded. French player Dimitri Szarzewski was furious when ground security refused to let him take his children on to the park for a victory lap.

Cardiff resident Toby Bennett, 34, who flew out for the match, said referee Alain Rolland had ruined the game.

"It was a harsh call," he said. "He could have given him a yellow and the game would have been ours. We were robbed."

Sophie Edgerton, who came over from Australia, added: "[The ref] killed us.

He will never be welcome in Wales again. Our game plan was to attack and he stole our thunder."

French fans, who were outsung around Eden Park, could scarcely believe what they had witnessed. Marseille fan Roger Panniecer said French willpower had won out over Welsh flair.

"That was the determination of Les Bleus - they were too tough in their minds. We hope that the All Blacks win now. This is the dream final."

And Nicola De Mane, a writer from Paris, said: "If you had asked me at the start of the tournament, I would never have hoped we would have come this far. We couldn't even agree what colour our shirts were. Now we will go together into the final."

Welsh supporter Catherine Peters was in tears after the match. "It was ours to have and we lost it. There was no way he deserved to be sent off." Her boyfriend Steven Giddey, 27, was consoling her

The evening began good-natured. Welsh fans packed the lobby of SkyCity and surrounding footpaths as their team made a grand departure to Eden Park.

And then, as the team boarded its bus to Eden Park for its semifinal clash, those with tickets quickstepped to their seats for kick-off.

There were similar - if more restrained - scenes outside the nearby Crowne Plaza, where the French were staying.

The scenes outside team hotels have become the festive beginning for an evening of rugby.

Among the Welsh fans were wives and girlfriends of players. Kate Williams, the wife of team doctor John Williams, was enjoying a drink with friends while waiting for their husbands and boyfriends to meet the crowds.

"They decided to make a grand exit," Williams said.

That exit was ingloriously final three hours later.

- Herald on Sunday

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